Madan Kamdev: An Amalgamation of Devotion, Love and Erotica

It is truly amazing to see the vastness of ancient archeological edifices and artefacts scattered all over the land of Kamrup. The rich plethora of such wonderful artistic beauty was the result of admixtures of heterogeneous religion of the place and interchange and intermingling of artistic creativity. Hidden amidst the hill top of Diwangri, lies such a place that displays supreme individuality of skilled craftsmanship and creativity; known as the ruins of the temple of Madan Kamdev.

When there stands a Hindu temple, mythology plays an interesting and unavoidably important part in its construction and also becomes the reason behind the existence of that particular temple at that particular place. Similarly, the ruins of the temple of Madan Kamdev of ancient Kamrupa; has a beautiful story that relates to its existence. According to Hindu Mythology, Lord Shiva had laid a curse on Kamdeva, who is popularly known as the ‘God of Love’ in a spurt of fury. Shiva, unable to contain his anger opened his third eye that turned Kamdeva into ashes. Then, it is said that Rati Devi, the consort of Kamdeva, pleaded to Shiva to give her husband’s life back. Shiva fulfilled her wish and Kamdeva was reborn at this particular place where the temple of Madan Kamdev is now located. Kamdeva then reunited with his consort Rati Devi here and thus the name of the place of Kamrupa derived its name from this very story of Kamdeva’s rebirth in the land of Kamrupa.

Historically, the ruins of Madan Kamdev Temple dates back to the 10th and 12th century C.E during the Pala rule. Dr. Pradip Sarma, who had been in service for the Archaeological Directorate of Assam, points out the fact that the excavations conducted during the year 1977 by the state archaeological department of Assam around the area of North Guwahati which was badly affected by the earthquake of 1897, ruins of 15 ancient temples had been found. As a result of this excavation, the ruins of Madan Kamdev temple and along with that 12 other small and big temple sites were discovered which dates back to the Pala regime.

The ruins of the temple which were found and some of which were unearthed are now scattered over a secluded place spreading over a stretch of 500 meters. A wide variety of decorative architectural pieces of rock-cut sculptures, monuments, idols of Hindu gods and goddesses and some other archaeological objects were among the few excavated objects. But, what attracted more attention was the erotic sculptures nicely sculpted in the stones. With this Madan Kamdev got its name as ‘Khajuraho of Assam’. There are some highly erotic sculptures which are hidden from the local public. Yet, the sculptures which are there at the temple complex easily throw light on the grandeur of art and craftsmanship of ancient and medieval Assam.

Dr. Pradip Sarma in his book, Architecture of Assam briefly mentions about the layout of the temple plan. He points out that the plinth of the temple has a paṅćaratha structure with decorative motifs and aṅgaśikharas, resembling the temple architecture of the Mukteśwar temple of Orissa of the 9th and 10th century C.E.  Historians and archaeologist believed that the temple plan had a pillared gateway, an antarala (vestibule), mandapa (assembly hall) and a garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum).

The present garbhagriha now stands on a platform which is formed by stacking together the broken stones reattached to one another to give the form of a plinth. It enshrines an idol of Parvati and Shiva as Uma Maheshwar, holding each other in embrace, thus portraying love and an ode to the God of Love, Kamdeva.

At Madan Kamdev archaeological site, there are three figures of parsadevata found on three sides of the adhisthana of the exterior of the temple-wall of the garbhagriha of the main temple, though they are in mutilated condition. All the three figures of the Goddesses are seated, on a dead corpse. Out of these three figures, upper portion of one of them is missing. Of the remaining two figures, one had three faces which were carved with the face of a female deity in the middle with face of a lion and varaha on either side. The Goddess carries gada in right upper hand and pasa in left upper hand, while her lower two hands are missing. The deity has three vahanas depicted below on the pedestal – appears to be two birds maybe vulture in the middle and swan in the left and an animal, bull in the right. While the other figure has three female faces and carries pustaka in the upper left hand and the other hands are found missing. This figure is seated on corpse in lalitasana posture with vahana -an animal may be bull pedestal. (p 383, Rao)

The sculptures which are engraved on these stones are mesmerizing, they portray a sense of love, devotion and a charisma of eroticism, which is not easily seen at every temple edifices. The erotic masterpieces of Khajuraho, shown in the walls of the plinth and jangha of temples of Khajuraho bear a few similarities with the images of Madan Kamdeva. According to Stella Kramrisch, like the temple style of Khajuraho, the adhisthana of the garbhagriha of the Madan Kamdev temple bears panels depicting erotic figures in the adhisthana of the temple.

Madan kamdev temple bears similarities with a few Orissan temple architectural characteristics. This can be said from the similarities seen by comparing the motifs like that of gaja-vyala, kiritmukha, bharbahaka, gana, pillar capitals with bracket figures, chaityagavaska etc. Other sculptures which can be found around the temple complex comprises of  griffins, nymphs, dancing apsaras (fairies), lintels and doorframes decorated with floral motifs, kalpavriksha, six headed Bhairava, four headed Shiva, demons, serpents, men and women depicting a variety of themes like processions, musicians etc. There are sculpted images of Sun, lion, buffalo, Lord Ganesha, Goddess Saraswati etc. Many figures are also said to have a tantric influence on them.

The Temple of Madan Kamdeva, is an epitome of archaeological findings of Kamrupa, which houses some of the most beautiful and interesting figures of the medieval era. This site is a proud edifice for Assam which is shrouded by many mysteries that add to the beauty and importance of the place.

References:

  • The Architecture of Assam, Agam Kala Prakashan, 1988 , P.C.Sharma
  • The Comprehensive History of Assam, vol-I, Publication Board, H.K.Barpujari
  • The Elements of Hindu Iconography, A.G.Rao
  • The Hindu Temple, vol-II, Stella Kramrich,